In Germany, the coming fog of a perfume factory – 08/12/2022 at 16:32


Glass bottles on a production line at the Heinz-Glas factory on August 3, 2022 in Kleintettau, Germany (AFP/Ronny Hartmann)

With its 400 years of history, the Heinz-Glas company, which produces glass bottles for the best perfumes, together with L’Oréal, has seen the passing of storms. But the gas crisis rocking Germany could be deadly.

“We live in a critical situation,” said Murat Agac, chief assistant to the CEO of this German family company, which has seen thirteen generations at its head since 1622.

“At the end of sending the gas (…) the function of the glass will be lost”, he added.

Based in the crystal region of Rennsteig, straddling Bavaria, in the south of the country, and Thuringia in the east, the company is one of the major international players in the sector.

In his Bavarian factory in Kleintettau, almost 70 tons of glass emerge every day from the noise of the machines and the heat of the furnaces.

To create and shape this material, the factory needs high temperatures, up to 1,600 degrees. Gas is used extensively in this process.

Until now, the well has flowed freely, and at a low price, thanks to the pipelines connecting Germany with Russia.

But that era is over. Moscow reduced its exports by 80% after the war in Ukraine.

As a result, prices rise. For Heinz-Glas, “the price has increased ten, sometimes twenty times compared to 2019”, a situation that is “uneconomical”, thinks Murat Agac.

– Gas oven –

In Kleintettau, the small pots, decorated with relief motifs, are tempered in the kiln, closely monitored by the workers, before being sent to the company’s customers – including French L’Oréal.

Molten glass is poured into bottles at the Heinz-Glas plant on August 3, 2022 in Kleintettau, Germany (AFP/Ronny Hartmann)

Molten glass is poured into bottles at the Heinz-Glas plant on August 3, 2022 in Kleintettau, Germany (AFP/Ronny Hartmann)

The consequences of stopping the import of Russian gas are very important for the company, which produces a million of these bottles a day in Germany.

The furnace at the company’s second factory in Piesau, a mountain village at the base of the ranches, will continue to damage if it is stopped, said Mr. But.

Even at the Kleintettau plant, where the furnaces run on electricity, about “40%” of the industrial process still runs on gas.

Like Heinz-Glas, it is the entire German industry, the mainstay of the economy in the euro zone, that is threatened.

Russian gas accounted for up to 55% of German imports before the war in Ukraine.

A worker works on melting glass in a vat at the Heinz-Glas plant on August 3, 20222 in Kleintettau, Germany (AFP/Ronny Hartmann)

A worker works on melting glass in a vat at the Heinz-Glas plant on August 3, 20222 in Kleintettau, Germany (AFP/Ronny Hartmann)

The producers are preparing for the immediate end of the deliveries, while the rationing method is being promoted by the government.

BASF has launched a major plan to replace gas with fuel oil at its second German plant. The Henkel company, a specialist in detergents and adhesives, plans for its sector to make greater use of telework.

-Different-

To achieve this, Heinz-Glas has installed a liquid gas storage container, which can be reached every day by car.

Murat Agac, vice president of the Heinz-Glas group, on August 3, 2022 in Kleintettau, Germany (AFP / Ronny Hartmann)

Murat Agac, vice president of the Heinz-Glas group, on August 3, 2022 in Kleintettau, Germany (AFP / Ronny Hartmann)

But this is a price “three times better” than it is now, and it’s not enough.

In the long term, the replacement of the entire physical system with electronic technologies could cost “50 million euros” for the company, an amount that it is believed that it cannot afford.

“We need state support,” said Murat Agac, leaving the problem of moving to India or China, where the company is located.

The company’s two German companies also need the equivalent of “3,000 football fields of solar panels” to operate.

For the company’s 1,500 employees in Germany – and 54,000 employees in the region around the country – the outlook is therefore bleak.

Employee Michaela Trebes checks bottles on a production line at the Heinz-Glas factory on August 3, 2022 in Kleintettau, Germany (AFP/Ronny Hartmann)

Employee Michaela Trebes checks bottles on a production line at the Heinz-Glas factory on August 3, 2022 in Kleintettau, Germany (AFP/Ronny Hartmann)

“I’m old, but the young people here are afraid for their jobs,” Michaela Trebes, 61, told AFP, looking at hundreds of small bottles coming off the lines. work, well organized.

The administration tries to appease the soldiers.

“When we were founded, we lived through the Thirty Years’ War (…) the plague. And only in the 20th century, the First and Second World Wars, the oil shock. We will overcome this problem”, said Ms. .Agac.

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